Here’s why we could see major momentum shift in Astros division race

The Astros host the Angels this weekend. Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images.

While not at all a given, the Astros should whip up on the Los Angeles Angels this weekend at Minute Maid Park. Since opting to not trade Shohei Ohtani the Angels have basically fallen out of the playoff race. Ohtani will not pitch here this weekend. The Angels have won their last two games, but only after losing seven in a row. Those Angels’ wins came against a team the Astros root for this weekend, the San Francisco Giants who are currently in the second wild card position in the National League. The Giants play host to the Texas Rangers.

The Astros enter the weekend trailing the Rangers by two and a half games in the American League West. The Astros are presently the much healthier team, with the Rangers down three injured 2023 All-Stars (catcher Jonah Heim, third baseman Josh Jung, and starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi). The schedule the rest of the way now favors the Astros. Using the definition of a crummy team as a team that is 10 or more games under .500, there are nine crummy teams in MLB this year (A’s, Royals, Tigers, White Sox, Mets, Nationals, Pirates, Cardinals, Rockies). The Astros have 12 remaining games against the dregs. The Rangers have just six. Beware the surging Seattle Mariners who have 19 games left against the bottom-feeders. The Mariners have beaten the Astros five out of seven games this season, with six left head-to-head. The Astros lead the season series with the Rangers 6-4, and lost the season series to the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3. Remember, no one game playoffs to settle ties, the season series is the first tiebreaker with intradivision record next where a season series was split (i.e. Astros-Rays 3-3).

The Astros taking two out of three in Baltimore was a fine result, only a touch disappointing for them in that they failed to finish off a sweep Thursday. But nobody sweeps the Orioles. The O’s salvaging the series finale makes it an incredible 76 consecutive series they have played without being swept, dating to May of last year. 11 times during this run the Orioles have played a “win or be swept” game and they have won all 11. Remarkable. What makes it even more amazing is that the Orioles only went 83-79 last season. 76 is the longest such streak since the Cardinals set the all-time record of 125 in a row from 1942-44.

The Astros are now 16-16 this season against the five teams that would join them in the AL playoffs if the regular season ended today. The Astros are still a good team but no longer a great team, obviously not in the class of their squads that won 101, 103, 107, and 106 games over the past six seasons. The tail end of the batting order is weak and the starting rotation has multiple question marks. Provided they get in the playoffs though, they certainly remain capable of getting back to and winning another World Series.

In Friday night’s series opener Justin Verlander makes the 500th regular season start of his career, becoming the 50th pitcher in Major League Baseball history to get to 500 (or 49th if you exclude a guy named Bobby Mathews who made some of his starts in the National Association, a precursor to the launch of the National League in 1876). With 813 starts Cy Young has a record which will never be approached much less broken. Nolan Ryan is second with 773. Fellow former Astro Don Sutton wins the bronze medal with 756 starts.

The Maldy debate continues

So you think Martin Maldonado is an awful offensive player? You’re right of course. That he continues to start more than 70 percent of the games behind the plate is an abomination. Yainer Diaz is exponentially better in the batter’s box, and better defensively by every measure (pitchers’ earned run average, throwing out opposing base stealers, passed ball and wild pitch numbers, and how about team won-loss record: 45-39 with Maldy catching, 19-9 with Diaz). It’s a joke. Anyway, back to Maldy’s offense. There are few worse in MLB history with his volume of plate appearances (3605 entering the Angels series). Barring a big finish, Maldonado is heading for a third straight season batting below .200. You know Maldonado hit .266 as a rookie in 2012? The next season, .169. For his career he’s closer to .169 (.206), this season .173. But a long time ago there was a catcher who as a hitter made Maldy look like Mike Piazza. Well, maybe Mike LaValliere.

Bill Bergen lasted 11 seasons in the big leagues (1901-1911), the first three with the Cincinnati Reds, then seven with the Brooklyn Superbas before one with them renamed the Brooklyn Dodgers. Bergen played on just one winning team over those 11 years, and sure did his part contributing to all the losing. As a rookie Bergen hit .179 then in his second season improved all the way to .180. Year three by some miracle he hit .227, then never again topped .190. In his final three seasons Bergen batted .131, .161, and .132. And he started the majority of the games all three years! No, Dusty Baker was never his manager. In 3234 career plate appearances Bergen finished with a .170 batting average, .194 on-base percentage and .201 slugging percentage for a .395 career OPS. It was the dead-ball era but those numbers are mind-numbingly pathetic. Bill Bergen must have been a helluva guy, and/or an absolute genius behind the plate, and/or had interesting photo collections of team executives.

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The Houston Texans have a huge game against the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, and they must come away with a victory if they want to avoid falling to 0-3 on the season.

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Green will miss the rest of the season needing shoulder surgery, and if Stingley is placed on IR and misses 4 games, he will have only played in 11 of a possible 23 games to start his career. Don't forget, Stingley missed time due to a hamstring issue in 2022 as well.

And let's not forget, Caserio passed on All-Pro corner Sauce Gardner, when he decided to draft Stingley No. 3 overall in 2022. The Jets selected Gardner with the very next pick.

Be sure to watch the video above as we discuss the implications of these injuries for the Texans and Caserio's future in Houston.

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